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Laverne Cox and seven others who are destroying our outdated stereotypes

Rebecca Bracken is a news and views writer.






8 Transgender people who are breaking the glass ceiling

The time has come for the transgender community to step out of the shadows and assume their rightful place in the world.

And it's happening.

President Obama used the word "transgender" in the State of the Union this week. Of the reportedly 6,718 meticulously vetted words he spoke, "transgender" was one of them. Big deal, right?

Then we got the news that Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, just became Pennsylvania's physician general. But don't for one second think Dr. Levine is some symbolic choice. She's a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Penn State Medical School and serves as chief of a program she created in the Division of Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders. Accomplished and dedicated, there are so many more interesting things about her than her gender.

Transgender people are more than the cartoonish sum of your tired stereotypes.

Which is why it was such a bummer to see our colleagues over at Bustle conclude their coverage of Dr. Levine's appointment with a Laverne Cox GIF. Don't get it twisted — Laverne Cox is, as Claire Warner writes, "the goddess among mortals." Agreed. But it got us thinking... Why is Laverne Cox the default go-to transgender pop culture reference? There are so many transgender folks out there doing incredible things and breaking down barriers one courageous act at a time.

To do our part, here is a list of notable and incredible transgender people you might want to get to know just as well as the goddess Laverne Cox.

Janet Mock

8 Transgender people who are breaking the glass ceiling

Image: Wikipedia Commons

This editor of People.com came out as transgender and works to empower through her social media #GirlsLikeUs advocacy and her best-seller, Redefining Realness. She famously called out Piers Morgan for trying to use her story to make tabloid TV by focusing solely on the salacious details of her transition during an interview. Can't help but love a girl willing to stand up for herself.

Carmen Carrera

Angel 👼

A photo posted by Carmen Carrera (@carmen_carrera) on

We first got to know Carrera on the raucous and fun third season of RuPaul's Drag Race and later on RuPaul's Drag U. In 2012, she announced she was transgender. She's since taken a hard line against the word "tranny," calling it a slur. Carrera also spoke out against CrossFit, a fitness program that told a transgender woman she couldn't participate in the women's category.

Alexis Arquette

8 Transgender people who are breaking the glass ceiling

Image: WENN

With vocal support from famous siblings Patricia, David and Rosanna, Alexis Arquette is a transgender woman who isn't afraid to be exactly who she is. You can catch one of her cabaret performances, where she goes by the name "Eva Destruction." Her brother David made a 2007 documentary about her transition called Alexis Arquette: She's My Brother to bring attention to the transgender experience. Alexis continues to blaze her own scorched-earth trail through Hollywood, dropping the recent bombshell that she once slept with Jared Leto.

Dr. Marci Bowers

Known as the "rock star" of transition surgeons, Dr. Bowers is a pioneer of transgender surgical care. She herself is transgender. After her own transition surgery, she decided to dedicate her life to helping others on the same path. Her tiny office in Trinidad, Colorado, was regarded as the best place in the world for those who sought gender reassignment, until she moved her practice in 2010 to the San Francisco Bay area.

Balian Buschbaum

8 Transgender people who are breaking the glass ceiling

Image: WENN

Once a record-breaking pole vaulter, German-born Balian Buschbaum has found himself a new career as a hunky pinup. The name he chose following gender reassignment, Balian, was inspired by the blacksmith in the movie Kingdom of Heaven. Buschbaum can no longer compete as a pole vaulter because of the testosterone he is taking as part of his transition, but he returned to the sport as a coach in Germany. He even appeared on the German reality show Let's Dance in 2013.

Chaz Bono

With cameras trained on him since childhood, it's easy to see why it would only be natural to share his transition from Chastity to Chaz with the world. The only child of Sonny and Cher has never shied away from sharing his struggles with gender, weight, relationships and family. Through reality TV, best-selling books and countless interviews, Chaz has let us all in on his journey, showing the world — along with his legendary mom, who has also been an outspoken and candid supporter of her son — what it's really like to transition and putting a well-known face and name behind the struggle.

Althea Garrison

This is what persistence and giving not one single f*** about the haters really looks like. Elected to the Massachusetts House in 1992, Garrison was outed as a transgender woman by Mitt Romney's communications director, Eric Fehrnstrom, who wrote a smear piece in the conservative Boston Herald and revealed Garrison's 1976 name-change petition. Her political position weakened, and she was defeated in 1994. But that didn't keep her out of politics. She continued to run, unsuccessfully, to regain her seat in the House and also ran for Boston mayor and Boston City Council. Knowingly or not, Garrison was the first transgender woman to ever be elected to a state legislature in the U.S.

More transgender stories

Meet a courageous transgender 5-year-old
R. Kelly opens up about transgender son — sort of
Mom brilliantly revises transgender son's birth announcement

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